Trump administration’s proposed slap to Venezuela would be the right move

Venezuelan President Nicolás Maduro has seized power and impoverished his country.
Venezuelan President Nicolás Maduro has seized power and impoverished his country. Getty Images

It appears the Trump administration is ready to add Venezuela to the U.S. list of state sponsors of terrorism — a country non grata. That’s welcome news in South Florida, where thousands of refugees of Nicolás Maduro’s regime live in exile.

Citing U.S. officials and internal government emails, the Washington Post reported Monday night that the Trump administration is taking the drastic measure against the renegade South American country, officially declaring it an enemy of America. A State Department spokeswoman declined to comment to The Post.

The designation would place Venezuela on a list reserved for governments repeatedly accused of being “a state sponsor of terrorism,” like Iran, North Korea, Syria and Sudan. Sister country Cuba fought and won removal from the notorious list in 2016 during the Obama administration.

Does Venezuela really qualify as a top danger to America? Yes, according to Miami Republican Sen. Marco Rubio, who has led the push to label Venezuela as such. In fact, indications are that the administration is likely acting on Rubio’s expert advice. The senator has long been a thorn in Maduro’s side. We commend Rubio for his tenacity against a power-hungry dictator who has made a mockery of his country’s democracy.

In a letter, Rubio and two Senate colleagues lobbied Secretary of State Mike Pompeo to place the designation on Venezuela, highlighting the regime’s links to U.S.-designated foreign terrorist organizations, including the Revolutionary Armed Forces of Colombia (FARC), the National Liberation Army (ELN), Basque Fatherland and Liberty (ETA) as well as to Hezbollah supporters.

“The crisis in Venezuela is dire and worsening every day,” the senators wrote. “The United States must use all available tools to protect the American homeland and our people from the Venezuelan dictatorship’s egregious support for terrorism and narcotrafficking. We strongly believe that the Maduro regime meets the criteria necessary to designate the current Venezuelan government as a state sponsor of terrorism.”

The sanction would be a strong, solid move by the Trump administration against a Latin American strongman who is ruining his country. Maduro is a menace, that is clear.

The designation would limit U.S. assistance to Venezuela and tighten the economic noose by prohibiting any remaining financial transactions between the United States and Venezuela.

But there is a downside — and collateral damage. Unfortunately, the new status would only worsen the already terrible conditions of the Venezuelan people — and neighboring Colombia, which is experiencing the brunt of absorbing nearly 1 million Venezuelans fleeing their homeland. The flood of refugees is putting “significant pressure” on Colombia’s economy. That’s what Colombia’s ambassador to the United States, Francisco Santos, recently told the Editorial Board. The United States should pair increased aid to help Colombia better absorb the deluge of people with any uptick in sanctions against Venezuela.

Despite jokes that Trump never met a strongman he didn’t like, the president has repeatedly criticized the Venezuelan government and has occasionally fired salvos across Maduro’s bow, even hinting that military intervention might be the only way to pry Maduro away from power. That’s a threat that should not be made lightly, nor a step that this administration should take.

However, stepping up the pressure on Venezuela would be the right move.